Paragraph reduction – A fun way of focusing students on sentence and paragraph formation.

Level: Pre-intermediate upwards

Time: 10-20 minutes

Language Focus: Past simple; sentence and paragraph structure

Aim: Students take turns and remove words from a paragraph until there is only one word left.

Here’s the procedure:

1)      Write a sample sentence on the board:

“Paul and John wrote very beautiful songs when they were good friends and worked together”.

2)      Allow students a few seconds to read the sentence. Then, erase one word from the sentence (the resulting sentence needs to be grammatical and meaningful):

For example:

“Paul and John wrote very beautiful songs when they were good friends and worked together”.

3)      Ask: “is this sentence correct?”

“Mika, can you take out more words? You can remove up to three consecutive words. Remember the sentence must remain grammatical”


“Paul and John wrote beautiful songs when they were good friends and worked together”.

4)      Organize the class in pairs or groups and go around eliciting answers by turns. Point out it is possible to break the text into two or more short sentences by inserting commas or full stops. Here’s an example of how it may go:

Step 1:

“Paul and John wrote beautiful songs when they were friends and worked together”.

Step 2:

“Paul and John wrote beautiful songs when .They were friends”.

Step 3:

“Paul and John wrote beautiful songs. They were friends”.

Step 4:

“Paul and John wrote beautiful songs”.

Step 5:

“Paul and John wrote songs”.

Step 6:

“Paul wrote songs”.

5)      Now face the pair or group who has been left with the one word and say: “In this game those who are left with the final word have to bring sweets for the rest of students next day”.

6)      After this demonstration, start a real game. Give students a short text like the one below. Allow a few moments for students to read and understand the text. You may want to pre-teach some vocabulary.

7)      Start the activity. Try to intervene as little as possible. Simply act as a walking eraser and take out those words each team calls when it’s their turn. Then, pause for a moment and let the class decide if the resulting text is correct. When there is agreement proceed with the next turn.

Model text:

The Prince walked up the steep stairs of the castle to this royal bedroom when he stopped to look out of the window; then he saw in the far distance the tall flames and a myriad of small and large animals running away from the fire.

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